Brandi and Tracy’s story: Blood donation runs in the family.
When Tracy Pico walked into the American Red Cross blood donation center in Pleasant Hill, California to donate blood, she was on a mission. She was determined to help another person in need just as others had donated blood for her 14-year-old daughter, Brandi. Last year, Brandi endured a long and arduous course of treatment for cancer which included multiple transfusions.
Tracy’s family have all been blood donors for years. In fact, her father has been a regular donor for over 30 years at the Red Cross facility in Pleasant Hill. But it was Brandi’s ordeal with cancer that ignited her personal commitment to become a blood donor.
In June of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brandi was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer that typically occurs in children and young adults. Her early symptoms, which included a painful bump below her left knee, were initially thought to be caused by another condition that, although painful, would eventually resolve. Unfortunately, the first diagnosis was wrong, and Brandi faced a devastating cancer diagnosis at an incredibly young age.
Before the diagnosis, Brandi had been an extremely outgoing and athletic teen. Now she and her family faced an overwhelming diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan that would permanently alter their lives. Over the past 10 months, Brandi has endured countless diagnostic tests and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Then, in September of 2020, Brandi went through extensive surgery to remove the tumor from her tibia (the larger of the two lower leg bones). During the surgery, Brandi received nine units of blood. Without the generous donation of blood from the community, Brandi’s treatment would have been impossible.
Because of the generosity of blood donors giving a part of themselves, Brandi is alive today. She will need to be followed closely for many years to make sure there is no recurrence, but now, she is focusing on a bright future in front of her. She looks forward to a time when it is safe to get together with friends again, starting high school this fall and hopefully, eventually playing volleyball again.
Inspired by the other donors and the Red Cross team at the Pleasant Hill donation center, Tracy decided to become a regular donor like her father. After her first visit, Tracy described her donation experience as “wonderful” from beginning to end. Tracy said that, even in a COVID-19 environment, she felt safe donating because she saw how carefully Red Cross staff and volunteers were following COVID-19 protocols. When asked what she would tell people who are considering donating for the first time Tracy responded, “Trust the Red Cross; the process is comfortable, quick, and painless. Think about why you are there and that your donation could be the difference between life and death for the recipient.”
Indeed, with overwhelming family and community support, Brandi and Tracy hope to host a blood drive sometime this summer or fall at the Red Cross facility in Pleasant Hill.
To learn more about becoming a blood donor, please visit redcross.org/blood.
To learn more about Brandi’s story and see pictures of her journey, please go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/brandipico.
About the author: Megan Erk is the Pacific Division External Relations Lead, Executive Board Member, and CEO Volunteer Partner for the Central Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross.